Saturday, March 09, 2013

Why are Team USA's hats a different color blue than their shirts?

Team USA lost last night.

I've been watching some of the games of the World Baseball Classic, though I haven't been able to catch them all. The lack of interest by Americans is once again disappointing.

Citizens of other countries are pumped about the #WBC. That Domincan Republic vs Venezuela game was great - very intense, very impassioned. The announcers said that much of those countries had shut down, as everyone was watching with their hearts on their sleeves. I wish it could be that way here.

Initially, I kind of wanted Venezuela to lose because of Hugo Chavez, WHO WAS NOT A dEMOCRAT (that's a small D, folks) and I was tired of hearing how great he was when he wasn't. I despise dictators of all stripes, even those who were seemingly elected, and Chavez managed to pull the wool over the eyes of far too many people as he exploited the poor for power. But that line of thinking led me down a stream of other thoughts about the countries involved in the WBC and how very different our circumstances are.

I've lived in four countries outside of the US for at least three month stints and have managed to make it to five of the six habitable continents, so I've seen a lot  of other cultures. The one continent I've missed thus far is the one on which Hugo Chavez made his life. (Hoping to rectify that with a trip to Machu Picchu in the autumn, if everything works out.) Until 2011 I didn't know much about that part of the world. Then I got a job with an international media think tank, which didn't work out, so I moved to a political research and strategy firm, the one who worked for the Venezuelan opposition candidate against Chavez in October. So I got to learn a thing or two about Venezuela.

Chavez's socialism - the real kind, not the Fox-News-crowd mutation of the word - did pull millions of people out of poverty, and by millions I'm talking more than twenty million. But the people are still poor and the country has one of the lowest rates of economic growth in the region. Chavez ruled the country for fourteen years - half the life of most of Team Venezuela's players; most of them probably grew up poor like their fellow citizens. I don't have the time or energy to research right now, but I imagine it's the same for a lot of the players on the latino teams. And I wonder if that's why they seem more connected to their people and the people to them.

I'm not a flagwaver; the concept of nations is an artificial construct and borders are good for nothing but division. Still, I like the idea of international competition and athletes representing the places they are from, playing for a community of people, a communion of souls. I like the intensity with which the latino teams play. I like the enthusiasm of their fans. I like how the players go out of their way to play for their countries. I wish the Americans would do that. We aren't fielding the best team we could because some players just don't want to take part. Look at those Puerto Ricans charging out to the mound like they just won the World Series. They just advanced to the next round, but they are pumped, and their fans are going crazy. The stadium for the US game is silent and empty. The team itself seems lifeless.

But not as lifeless as the attention being paid to the tournament by our citizens. In front of us is an international tournament for a game we perfected, what we once called our national pastime, yet that USA stitched upon the chests of our team elicits indifference. Too bad, because this would be a perfect opportunity for citizen unity. We lack a spirit of community. We have this erroneous notion that we are better than everyone else that causes us to miss out on so many things. Like international competitions. We have nothing to unite around; there is no event that we come together as a nation to root for. Baseball is our sport, but we've discarded it as a country because we no longer have the attention span for it?

And why can't we have hats that match the uniforms?

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